Panetti v. Quarterman:
The Court handed down Panetti v. Quarterman this morning, a case on application of the death penalty to individuals with serious mental illness. In an opinion by Justice Kennedy, joined by Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, & Breyer, the Supreme Court overturned a Fifth Circuit ruling that a death row inmate can be executed if he understands that he is being put to death for murder but due to mental illness thinks the state's reason is a sham. The key passage:
Gross delusions stemming from a severe mental disorder may put an awareness of a link between a crime and its punishment in a context so far removed from reality that the punishment can serve no proper purpose. It is therefore error to derive from Ford, and the substantive standard for incompetency its opinions broadly identify, a strict test for competency that treats delusional beliefs as irrelevant once the prisoner is aware the State has identified the link between his crime and the punishment to be inflicted.
Justice Thomas dissented, joined by Roberts, Scalia, and Alito. Justice Thomas argues that the Court fudged its way around AEDPA to get to the merits of the case de novo, and that once there the Court's view of the constitutional requirements have no basis in the key precedent in the area, Ford v. Wainright.